How to Paint Wall Tile

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required
  • Old toothbrush
  • 2-in. angle sash brush
  • Paint roller
    (with short-nap sleeve)
  • Putty knife
  • Non-metallic abrasive pad
Materials Required
  • Canvas drop cloth
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Window or box fan
  • Portable work light
  • Paint pan
  • Brush comb
  • Brush/roller spinner
  • Household bleach
  • Large sponge
  • Household ammonia
  • Plastic drop cloth
  • BIN primer sealer
  • Acrylic latex paint

Before You Begin

End Closet Clutter

The instructions are listed below but if you don't have the time or desire to paint, you can find a painting contractor who has the skills and tools to do it right. Click Home Advisor, a free referral service that connects homeowners with local prescreened contractors.

  • Step 1 : Clean the grout

    Clean the grout

    To paint wall tile begin by removing any mildew on the grout joints. Clean the grout with a commercial mildew-removing tile cleaner or with a 3:1 solution of water and household bleach. Spray or sponge on the solution -- wear rubber gloves and safety goggles -- and scrub grout joints with a stiff old toothbrush. Wait at least 15 minutes and rinse well with clean water. Repeat, as necessary, until all trace of stain is gone. Open windows and doors and, if necessary, put a window or box fan in a window to provide good cross-ventilation when working with bleach and chemical cleaners.

  • Step 2 : Clean the tile

    Clean the tile

    Wash the surface of the tiles with a 50-50 solution of household ammonia and water to remove soap film from bathroom walls or grease from kitchen walls. Use the wall sponge and a non-metallic abrasive pad for tough spots. Then rinse well with clean water and towel dry.

  • Step 3 : Mask trim

    Use painter's tape to mask trim, cabinets, permanent wall-mounted fixtures or anything else that you don't want to paint.

  • Step 4 : Prime the surface

    When the surface is completely dry, apply a special high-adhesion bonding primer, such as Zinsser's BIN with a brush or roller. The primer provides a sort of anchor for the topcoat so it can't be rubbed, chipped or scraped off easily.

  • Step 5 : Apply first coat of paint

    Apply first coat of paint

    Let the primer dry as directed on the label. Then apply a first coat of acrylic latex paint. With an angled sash brush, carefully cut in a 2-inch wide border of paint around the perimeter of the tiled surface. Use a paint roller to apply paint inside the border before the paint begins to dry. Blend the top and bottom sections with light strokes before moving to the next area. Roll the paint out in one direction until it's evenly spread. Make your final strokes lightly with a nearly dry roller; and overlap the previously completed area. Periodically shine a work light on the fresh paint to check for drips, ridges or missed spots as you work.

    To wipe off drips, wrap and hold a rag tightly over the end of a putty knife. Draw it along the unpainted surface to wipe off the unwanted paint. The cloth-covered blade gets right up to the edge of the painted area without touching it and smearing the paint.

  • Step 6 : Apply a second topcoat of paint

    Follow the instructions on the label for recoating, which describes estimated drying times and under what circumstances sanding between coats may be necessary. Then reapply a coat of paint as you did the first coat.

  • Step 7 : Clean up

    If you are just taking a break, wrap applicators is plastic wrap and cover paint containers. Although this will work overnight, too, it's usually better to clean a brush at the end of a day to prevent paint from building up in the heel of the brush. The most effective way to clean a brush is with a brush comb and a brush/roller spinner. Rinse as much paint out as possible with warm soapy water, combing as needed to open up the inner portion of the brush and to straighten the bristles. Then attach the brush to the spinner and spin out all liquid into a trashcan or cardboard box. Repeat rinsing and spin again. Use the spinner when cleaning for the roller, too.